A massive increase of 121 per cent has been witnessed in the number of foreigners visiting cultural sites and museums sites in Pakistan over the past five years.
The findings, part of the Cultural Heritage and Museum Visits in Pakistan report by Gallup Pakistan, prove the tourism industry's potential as a saviour for the country's struggling economy.
The year 2014 saw a total of 20,461 foreign visitors at cultural sites and museums, while the figure rose to 45,419 in 2018.
Citing records of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, the report shows that numbers from 2014 to 2017 fluctuated between 20,000 to 24,000 and rose by 91 per cent in the year 2018.
The highest increase - 250 per cent - in foreigners visiting museums was witnessed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The data shows that visits to cultural sites by local and foreign tourists increased by 317 per cent since 2014, with a collective 6.6 million visits recorded in 2018.
Pakistan’s tourism - huge untapped potential and way forward
Punjab contributed a massive 95 per cent of the increase, followed by Sindh and K-P.
Visits to museums, on the other hand, rose by 50 per cent with 1.7 million visits recorded in 2014 and 2.7 million in 2018.
Most popular museums and cultural sites
Pakistan Monument Museum in Islamabad, Khewra Mines Museum in Chakwal and Lok Virsa Heritage Museum continued to be the top three most popular museums of Pakistan from 2016-2018.
Taxila Museum and Lahore Museum were the fourth and fifth most popular.
In cultural sites, the Shahi Qila (Royal Fort) in Lahore was the most popular in Pakistan during 2016-2018 with the number of visits exponentially higher than all other cultural sites.
In 2018, Shahi Qila received five million visits, which were 1,160 percent more than the visits at the second most popular site, Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.
For foreigners, Lahore Museum was the most popular museum in 2016 and 2017, but Taxila Museum took first spot in 2018.
From 2016-2018, Taxila, Rawalpindi remained the most popular cultural site for foreign tourists, whereas Shahi Qila remained the second most popular site.
The third most popular site for foreigners in 2016 was Mohenjodaro, Larkana, in 2017 it was Jehangir‟s Tomb, Lahore, and in 2018 it was Shalimar Gardens, Lahore.
The Gallup Pakistan report reinforces the belief that the country harbours immense potential for tourism.
On the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, Pakistan is ranked 124 out of 136 countries, a figure that is very low considering the abundance of cultural resources.
However, the index also places Pakistan on 56th position for cultural resources and business travel, which indicates considerable potential for development of the tourism sector.